Harbour Theatre - mainly for former members

1965

I'll show as many photos as I can on these pages, and include scans of programmes too.  If there are few details with an entry, it means that's all I have. The pages have lots of photos, and may take a few moments to load, particularly if you're not on broadband, so please be patient!

 

Sat, 4th December 1965: Miscellany at Dunlop Memorial Hall, Dreghorn

This was the VERY first presentation by "a New Arts Group", which begat Irvine Arts Group, which begat Harbour Arts Centre. That's a lot of begatting too. The show included poetry by William McIlvanney and drama readings by Jim and Jean Grahame. Considering the year, not exactly a rock'n'roll start, but rather, a cautious beginning. I know of no other ticket such as this in existence, so in terms of the history of the HAC, this is arguably our most precious relic.

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19th May 1966: The Poetry of William McIlvanney and the Folk Guitar of Eddie Gillet.

This was a bit more like it, as knowing Eddie Gillet, there would have been a lot of contemporary music. Dig it, baby!

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I haven't found any records to show what was done between then and 1968, so until I do, the 'Official' list begins as follows: 

THE FIRST DRAMA GROUP PRODUCTION - June 1968: Shadow of a Gunman by Sean O'Casey. Dir. Jim Kennedy

Cast - Ron Alexander, Bob Alexander, Pat Kelly, Bill Paterson. The cast of characters is bigger than this, but tHese are the only names I have.          Tickets cost 3/6d (15.5p)

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Oct: The Baikie Charivari by James Bridie, dir. Jim Kennedy

 

 "What the heck is one of them?" I hear you ask. I didn't know either, but research (Google) reveals that 'charivari' is originally French and is the same word as the American 'shivaree', meaning the noisy celebration of a marriage usually accompanied by banging pots and pans together, which you sometimes still see on Hen nights. Baikie is a Scots surname, and the play is described as a Miracle Play.

This, the Drama Group's second ever show, was before even my time, so I know little about it. I do recognise Willie Smith on the left, then Rebecca McFarlane, Ian Duff, and Shelagh Tutchener seated. Can't remember the name of the girl in the middle, but I was at school the same time as her, but future HAC Chairman Ron Alexander is in front of her. 'Buzz' Barr is R of C. I know that cos it is writted on the photo. The girl standing on his left is I think Marion Gibson. Don't know who the bloke seated is. Rebecca tells me that the girl seated is Carla Guazelli, and on the far R is Dave Smith, Willie's brother. I've cropped the photo, but the original shows them standing on a platform, possibly at the gallery end of the theatre, because of the doorway. The audience sat in straight rows of metal-framed stacking chairs.

1969

 Feb: Playing With Fire by August Strindberg, dir. Jim Kennedy

Clearly, the Drama Group's sights were set high from the start. Not many amateur societies would have tackled an playwright like Strindberg, not in this area anyway!

Most of you should recognise the young man at the back - Bill Paterson. Bill was a student pal of director Jim, and had already appeared in our first production the previous year. As a professional actor, he was later to return to HAC several times as part of the 7:84 company.

Some of you may recognise Shelagh Tutchener. She and her husband Brian were founding members of HAC. Brian was in business in the town for many years and their eldest son Simon later started what became his career by 'doing' lights at HAC. (I taught him everything he knows!) Simon is now a highly-respected rock show lighting designer working with the biggest names in the industry, and I do mean BIG names. When last heard of (2007) he designed the lighting for the Take That reunion tour. Brian and Shelagh are living in rural idyll in deepest Hertfordshire.

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Jun: Juno and the Paycock by Sean O'Casey, dir. Jim Kennedy

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Oct: The Picnic by Fernando Arrabal and "a Pinter sketch", name unknown, dir. Tony Stott.

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Nov: Black Comedy by Peter Schaffer, dir. Jim Kennedy

1970

Jan: Miscellany 4

1971

Feb: Miscellany 5

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June: Crime Passionel by Jean-Paul Sartre, dir. Jim Kennedy

This was my first HAC show.     (Actually, that's not true. While I was still a pupil at Ravenspark Academy, HAC presented Lindsay Kemp's mime show 'Turquoise Pantomime' there about 1969. I did the lights for it , but I didn't know it was a HAC show 'til years later.)     Rehearsals for the play were well underway by the time I appeared and as I was as yet unproved, I was told I could just "help out". Technical things were under the care of a lovely Australian guy called Sam Nelson who was living and working in the area at that time.  Being about a political assassination, the script called for an explosion outside the window of the room. To experiment in rehearsal, Sam had rigged a medium-sized theatrical maroon, basically a small bomb, inside a metal dustbin. Stretched across the inside of the bin were wires which held pieces of glass and assorted rubble for effect. For "safety", several layers of thick plastic and chicken wire were bound tightly round the top of the bin. The test was ready and the theatre cleared. Sam gave me the honour of hitting the 'fire' button, and the loudest, most ear-shattering explosion rocked the foundations of the building, accompanied by sounds of breaking glass and what sounded like bullet hits. Investigations revealed glass and rubble all over the place, embedded in walls, the chicken wire and plastic blown to smithereens, and a big hole in the dustbin. My first thought was "cool", but Jim the director went purple with rage at poor Sam's apparent incompetance, using adjectives and calling him names my refined Kilwinning ears had never heard before. (To this day, I'm still not entirely sure what a "stupid a***** b****** sheep-**** ****** c******* d***** " is, or even if its physically possible.) After the rant had subsided, Sam blinked behind his specs and said in broad Aussie, "No worries mate, we'll use the small dog faaart from now on, and no glaaass". He was right. The smaller maroon did sound a bit like how he'd described it, but it was relatively safe, didn't damage anyone's eardrums and didn't blow the bin apart.

I liked Sam, and we got on well. In fact, at one drunken after-show party, he called me the son he'd never had. A year or two later, I heard that he'd left the area, but we never kept in touch.

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Aug: The Short and Curly Show, comedy sketches and music, compiled/dir. by the cast?

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Nov: The Crucible by Arthur Miller, dir. Jim Kennedy

Ostensibly about the so-called Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, The Crucible was possibly the Drama Group's most ambitious show to that date, due to the size of the cast if nothing else. If memory serves, the stage at that time was a raised platform, so it was quite a feat to have everyone crowd on it without somebody falling off.

The set was a clever creation - a large vertical oblong box, one side of which was a fireplace for 'indoor' scenes. Depending on the location, it turned round 180 degrees to magically transform into another bit of wall with an optional fold-down bed for the prison scenes, an innovative effect for a wee place like HAC. Ticket prices for this show were by now a whopping 35p!

Playing the part of Abigail Williams was a young Kilmarnock lass called Kirsteen (now Kirsty) Wark. Without wishing to namedrop overtly (well, you all know what I do for a living!), I reminded her of it some years back, and she had fond, though dim, memories of it.  A newspaper interview in 1997 said, ' " I was Abigail in The Crucible at the Harbour Arts Centre Irvine. I was 16 and I loved it." She smiles that broad smile and her eyes sparkle.'

The superb poster was designed by Suzanne Stewart.

 

1972

Mar: Miscellany 6

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Mar: The Hostage by Brendan Behan, dir. Jim Kennedy

Standing L-R Ian James, Alan Black, Ian Brown, Sheila Campbell, Jean Doole (now Park) Annette Roux, Willie Smith, Marlene Johnson, Roland Emslie, Margaret Beeley, Jamie Garven, Seated L-R Alistair Rennie, Trish Black, Brendan McKay, John Smelt.

I've fond memories of The Hostage, cos it was the first show I stage-managed, since I was studying the subject at RSAMD at the time. The photo L shows the set, and the first incarnation of the balcony, built by Andy Doole and others, and accessed by stairways at both ends. We needed lots of entrances so a sort of false internal porch was built round the fire exit behind the stairs L so that characters could come in from outside! The balcony proved so useful (and cost so much), it remained in place for the next few shows.

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Aug: The Curt and Surly Show, compiled/dir. by the cast

Without the programme, I can't remeber much about this show, except that I 'did' lights for it.  As previously mentioned, the lighting controls were behind a wall, and the only way to see into the theatre was to stand on a box and keek through a six-inch square hole. I have a strong memory of looking through this hole on probably the first night to check the lights were OK. There was a bloke playing guitar and a young pregnant girl singing. I remember being impressed by the music and the girl, but thought not much more about it. A few years later when Pat and I started going out, we quickly discovered we'd both had links with HAC, and the penny dropped, as did my jaw. Pat was that young blonde lassie I'd watched through the hole in the wall, when she was pregnant with oor Claire. All together now - "awwwwwwwwww".

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Nov: Endgame by Samuel Beckett, dir. Jim Kennedy and the World Premiere of Coda by Joan Ure, dir. Roddy Kennedy (no relation).

HAC and The Drama Group appear to have failed to capitalise on the fact that Coda was our first World Premiere, seeing as it was the first public perfomance of a new work by an established playwright. The programme merely states that it was "specially written for HAC". I worked on both these shows (not that you'd know it as there were no technical credits in the programme!) but I can't remember why it was ignored. Maybe we were just blase about it. Oh well. I can't remember what it was about, and can't find any reference to it on t'internet, but the cast was Helen Mitchell, Betty Love and Roddy Kennedy.

Endgame however, will always stick in my memory for being the source of two of the best but least intentional laughs ever at HAC, at least for the cast and crew. The play, like most of Beckett's works, was weird. I've seen another version of it on TV, but I'm still none the wiser - some sort of post-Apocalyptic world I think. Anyway, in this room is Ham (Alistair Rennie), blind and wheelchair-bound. Looking after him is Clov (Willie Smith) At a certain point well into the script, Clov climbs up a small stepladder to look out of the window (a frame hanging from the lighting grid) with a telescope. He sees something outside which makes him exclaim, "My GOD!!". Fair enough, except one night Willie exclaimed "God" so violently, his false teeth shot out of his mouth, and landed clattering at the feet of the front row of the audience. Now, in this situation, you would expect some sort of reaction from an audience, wouldn't you? But I happened to be watching through my little hole at the time, and there was merely a stunned, deafening silence, a true tumbleweed moment. Clearly, the audience thought this was just another weird moment in a weird play. To give Willie his due, he calmly got down off his stepladder, picked up the teeth, replaced them, and got on with it, a mightily impressive display of chutzpah! And all that is true because I saw it. Meanwhile, I practically fell off the box I was standing on, and managed to whisper to a couple of others a description of what had happened, so while the actors were droning on as normal, we were stuffing hankies in our mouths or fleeing the area before we exploded with hysterics. Alistair appeared unaware of what had happened as he was wearing really dark glasses on and had his eyes shut, and couldn't work out the sounds he was hearing. Just as well.

The other incident involved the other two characters, Nagg and Nell, played by now-professional actor and London comedy club owner Roland Emslie, and Jean Doole, now Park. For reasons best known to Beckett and the demons that inhabit him, they played two characters in Pierrot costume, with white-face makeup and outfits, who 'lived' in two large white paper boxes. Jean and Roland had to crawl onstage and into the boxes in a blackout at the beginning of the play, and wait there until their cue to pop up out of the box to do their part. One night (surely not the same night as the teeth, but who knows . .), Jean's cue to appear from the box approached. Unfortunately, Willie went wildly off script and Jean didn't get the cue. Alistair says to this day that he tried and tried to turn the script back to get Willie back to the point of departure because he'd realised what had happened, but Willie was having none of it. So the moment passed, and Jean couldn't find a way to suddenly appear (though I doubt if anyone would have batted an eyelid if she had), and just had to sit inside the box for the rest of the play. But now that the script was running as normal, Roland got his cue, and popped up to do his part as rehearsed. Jean never did make an appearance that night, and at the end, she and Roland crawled off in a blackout. At the curtain call, the cast took their bows, including Jean, still in costume and makeup. Well, why not? Wasn't her fault she didn't make an appearance, was it? This must have left the audience thinking, "There's the guy that played the clown, but who's SHE?"

For the audience, it must have been like the Emperor's New Clothes, as I never heard if anyone had had the bravery to ask who was the female character dressed in white!

1973

Feb: The Inca of Perusalem and The Dark Lady of The Sonnets by George Bernard Shaw, dir. Jim Kennedy.

This double bill was complemented by a reading of four of Shakespeare's Sonnets, accompanied by specially-composed music for the cello by Chris Brown. The readings were given by Iain McPherson, who later changed his name to Iain Lauchlan, became one of the presenters of Play School, and created The Tweenies.

The cast for The Inca was Alistair Rennie, Jean Doole, Alan Black, Marlene Johnston, Iain McPherson and Jim Kennedy. The play was rehearsed by Brian Tutchener. 

The cast for Dark Lady was Willie Smith, Roddy Kennedy, Shelagh Tutchener and Roland Emslie.

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March: Miscellany 7

I kind of remember bits of this show. It was a collection of 'artistic' items from a broad base, including Creative Dance (pass me my revolver please) but also sketches, stories, songs, a mime and Spike Milligan poetry. Interestingly, recorded Classical music was played during the interval for those who wanted to listen to it, then another interval to allow them to recover from it! Can you imagine a programme like this nowadays?

I also have a memory that the three sketches by Paul Ableman featured in Part Two were pretty weird, but hey, it was the 70's, man!

 

Soon after this, but entirely co-incidentally, HAC closed for nine months for major rebuilding and refurbishment. See the 'How We Started' page for details of the re-opening in 1974.

1974

June: The Anatomist by James Bridie, dir. Willie Smith

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was our first show in the rebuilt and extended HAC, with the stage turned 180 degrees to fit in with the extension on that side. New faces joined us in our new home, in many cases staying for quite a number of years. Things were buzzing and it was such a delight to be in a new place laid out more or less as we wanted it. 

Although concerning the activities of Burke and Hare the Edinburgh body-snatchers, the play was not immune to moments of unintentional comedy. At a dramatic peak, when outraged citizens are besieging Dr Knox's house, he is supposed to declaim "Stand back!", smash a window with a pistol, and fire through it. Unfortunately, stage management had supplied a piece of glass that would have resisted an attack by an enraged rhino, and no matter how many times the actor thumped the glass, it refused to break. I think eventually, he just opened the door and fired through it instead! This may even have been the same play when the pistol refused to fire and some wag backstage shouted "Bang!".

Later in the same play, an unexpected improvised scene occurred on the line, "Here is Walter at last". But Walter didn't appear, because Walter didn't realise he was needed and was sitting in the dressing room probably doing the crossword or something. Eventually, somebody had the wit to invent the line, "I'm sure that was Walter I heard on the stairs", and went off to get him. From that point on, stage management didn't rely on actors appearing on time themselves, and gave them a call. 

The lighting and sound controls were now housed in a suspended gallery in the theatre, so we could easily see and hear what was going on. Backstage there was a dedicated dressing room, and - wonder of wonders - a SEPARATE toilet!  (though as we quickly discovered, we still couldn't use it during a show). The permanent, stepped seating that we'd had latterly in the old place was recreated and extended, so the  audience was now comfortably seated in three separate areas. With five entrances/exits, this gave us an extremely flexible space, and as you will see, we went on to design some incredible sets.

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Aug: Graffitti by Jack Gerson, dir. Shelagh Tutchener                                    and The Bear by Anton Chekov, dir. Iain Campbell.

  This double bill was an official part of irvine's Marymass celebrations of that year. On a slightly different historical note, the programme details upcoming events at HAC, including "The Knack", the first presentation by Borderline Theatre Company. HAC had further strengthened its new beginning by creating this new touring company, and we now shared the building with them.

The cast of Graffitti was Brendan McKay and Celia Hacking. The picture is from The Bear, a Chekov comedy. I say 'comedy' but that of course is relative! Anyway, the cast was L-R Roddy Kennedy, looking like a lustful Albanian sheep-herder, Shelagh Tutchener, looking demure and fragrant as ever, and Jim Tannock, looking like a gormless twit because he was PLAYING a gormless twit.

Jim had by now acquired a bit of a reputation for having a relaxed attitude to learning his lines. 'Approximation' was his watchword, but fortunately he was a damn good actor, and always managed to ad-lib or paraphrase his way out of too much trouble. His fellow actors had to keep on their toes though. This trait of his was evident during this show too. His character was supposed to accidentally come across the other two in an illicit embrace (actually, it was a full-blown snog), and he was supposed to exclaim, "Holy Fathers". But oh no, that was too easy. Instead, Jim came out with "Jesus CHRIST", much funnier than anything Chekov would have written , but not exactly in context. Roddy and Shelagh nearly choked.

It is some sort of tradition in some theatres that, on the last perfomance, it is allowable for the cast or crew to play jokes on the others, nothing that will seriously interrupt the flow of the play, just the odd jolly wheeze to check if anyone will notice. This happened in The Bear, and apparently in full view of the audience, but not the cast, which is itself a remarkable acheivement. Apparently the audience was treated to the sight of a stagehand substituting one glass of clear liquid for another, then watching Roddy's face as he threw back a glass of "vodka", and immediately realising that it wasn't the expected water, but the real thing! What fun!

I also have vague memories of taking these plays to the Marine Hotel in Troon. This was exciting, as it was the first time we'd 'toured' a show, but I can't now remember the reason why we went there!

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Oct: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg by Peter Nichols, dir. Jim Tannock (also Sept 77 and Spt 79)

 

Ah, Joe Egg. I think we must have been the world's leading experts on mounting this play, as we did three different productions. The programme above and the poster are from this first production.

Such was Jim's belief in this well-known 60's play and recently-successful film, we ran it for an unprecedented five nights. Tickets sold pretty well. As we were to find out later, something about that show attracted a good audience.

 

Ticket prices were now 60p !

1975

Feb: Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, dir Ingrid Smith.

Don't remember much about this. I have a memory that the set was in the form of a giant open book, designed I think by Christine Stevenson, but strangely she's uncredited.

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Apr: Colour compiled/dir. by the cast

Billed as "a spectrum of wit and wisdom". Only one performance and free admission. Strange.

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May: Loot by Joe Orton, dir. Roddy Kennedy

 

As you can see, the programme was coffin-shaped. This made it very fragile, hence the sellotape join!

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July: The Breadwinner by W Somerset Maughm, dir. Iain Campbell

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Aug: The Pubs Is Shut for the Edinburgh Fringe, compiled/dir Ingrid Smith and the cast

      

The photo shows some of the cast: Back row - Jerry Andrews, Brendan McKay.    Middle - Andy Long, Jean Doole, Iain Campbell, Shelagh Tutchener, Sheila Campbell, Paul Carrol.   Front - Trevor Turner, Betty Hutton.

Pubs was one of our best self-written shows, compiled for perfomance at the Fringe with songs and sketches compiled and devised by the cast and guest musicicians. The script looked the Licensing Laws and related topics, including the history of whisky and problems with alcoholism, but it wasn't preachy. At the Fringe, it went on for five nights at 10.30pm - remember the pubs closed at 10 in those days - and by all accounts was very successful. A year later, the Clayson Report liberalised Scotland's drinking laws to pretty much what they are today - not that I'm saying we had any influence!

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 Nov: Antigone by Jean Anouilh, dirs. Jim Tannock and Mollie Finch

 

This Greek Tragedy in modern dress only stays in mind because it was my first acting part, sensibly a small one, and I only did it as a favour to Jim. Needless to say, the cast referred to it as "Aunty Gone".

 Ron Mottram, Derek Hacking and I played guards wearing Aran sweaters and white plastic safety helmets. Go figure. We looked like three bad folk singers on a building site.

I remember there weren't many laughs in it, but I quite enjoyed the acting thing.

 

 

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Dec: HAC Radio comp./dir. by the cast?

 

Those not involved with Antigone compiled this radio show. A simple, yet effective idea (and very cheap!) - get some comical radio sketches and do them standing up. reading from the script in front of microphones like a real radio studio setup.

There was even somebody at the back playing in taped music cues and doing live sound effects (doors opening, teacups, etc.)

I actually remember seeing this show - it was great!.

 

 

 

1976

1976 was arguably our busiest year, with nine separate productions. 1978 had eight, with seven in 1975. This is partly due to HAC's increasing membership following its recent relaunch. At the peak, there were well over 1200 subscribing members. We used to joke that we'd be OK so long as they didn't all turn up at the same time! 

Feb: Leonardo's Last Supper by Peter Barnes, dir. David Croft-Smith

We did this show twice. Once here, then again for the Fringe in September. It concerned the great painter and inventor being prematurely pronounced dead, waking up in a horrifying charnel-house, and the crooked proprietors being none too pleased about it and trying to finish the job. In other words, a comedy!

It gave us the chance to make some interesting props - disgusting, rotting animal parts and general stinking dead meat, with added slime, goo and yuk (Sounds like a firm of Chinese solicitors!). Jim T was to the fore here, and at one point received an unexpected round of applause. As rehearsed, he threw a chicken leg backwards over his shoulder. It was supposed to just land with a dull thud on the floor, but this night the trajectory was different, and it hit the top of the back wall, bounced musically down a few shelves and boxes, and landed with a splash in a large water-filled pot.

At one point, poor Trevor Turner, as Leonardo, had to have his head, complete with long wig and false beard, shoved in a barrel of 'intestines', which contained amongst other secret things, bits of  rubber, food dye, and flakes of porridge. It looked disgusting (good) and had the audience gagging (very good) so well done Props Dept! I always fancied reviving this play. Wish I had now. . . .

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Apr: Wuthering Heights by Constance Cox, dir. Iain Campbell

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Aug: Thistle Get You Going comp/dir. Ingrid Smith and Leonardo's Last Supper by Peter Barnes, dir. Ingrid Smith, both for Edinburgh Fringe.

Thistle was conceived as a kind of follow-up to the previous year's 'Pubs Is Shut', this  time concerning Scotland and the Scots. In Edinburgh, it ran alongside the new production of Leonardo, and if I heard correctly, both were very well successful.

A name in the cast list is Myra McFadyen. I wonder if that's the same Myra who's a pretty successfull Scottish actress. The one I'm thinking of had a small part in the STV version of The Steamie which I worked on. If I'd realised the possible connection, I'd have asked her. Anybody confirm  . . .?

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Sept: I See Myself As This Young Girl by Joan Ure and The Tower by Peter Weiss, dir. Ingrid Smith for Sirkus Theatre. For Festival Fringe?

Sirkus Theatre was a sort of breakaway group, created to allow Ingrid slightly more freedom in her choice of play and cast. But no-one really minded, as it still rehearsed at HAC and had a largely HAC-oriented cast.

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Sept: A Phoenix Too Frequent by Christopher Fry, dir. Shelagh Tutchener for Root Ginger.

Phoenix was staged also for the Fringe, this time under the banner of Shelagh's Root Ginger company. I believe it shared the same venue as the Sirkus Theatre and HAC shows (St Columba's By The Castle church hall, Borderline's Fringe base) This was the biggest and longest HAC connection with the Fringe, a remarkable achievement for amateurs.

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Nov: The Old Lady Shows Her Medals by JM Barrie, dir. Alan Black and The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard, dir. Tony Stott

I hadn't seen much of the plays during this year, as I was a bit busy getting married and being in a band. I don't think I saw these either, but both these shows were a bit nostalgic for me, as they were two shows that I had worked on whilst at RSAMD.

1977

Feb: The Adventures of a Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond and Alfred Bradley, dir. Mollie Finch

 

It vwas nice to see some new faces for thsi production. Sheila always said this was her favourite part, maybe because she was just like a cuddly Teddy herself! 

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Jun: Night Must Fall by Emlyn Williams, dir. Sheila Campbell

This murder mystery was Sheila's directorial debut, and marked the first appearance of a certain Mr & Mrs MacCowan. Pity Rod didn't play either the Lord Chief Justice or the murderer, as they would have given him an interesting insight into his future career! (Prison Governor)

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Sept: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg by Peter Nichols, dir. Jim Tannock and Jean Doole.

I remember Jim phoning me to say he wanted to nominate this play. I said, "What, again?", but when he said he wanted to take it to the Fringe, I said, "Oh, that's different"

The photo shows some of the cast for this production. L-R Rod MacCowan, Sheila Campbell reprising her part from 1974, Celia Hacking and Jim. This time I was SM, and unbelievably, managed to borrow a whole room's worth of new furniture from a leading retailer in Kilmarnock. They got it back still in showroom condition too! We played at HAC first of course, before heading to the McRobert Centre in Stirling, where we did OK, then on to Edinburgh. We weren't expecting a huge response there, but as I said earlier, something about this play, or the subject, or our good name, attracted an audience. and we sold out both perfomances. Doing a show at the Fringe is a great experience, and one that every amateur should try at least once. If you cover your costs, you're doing well, but to make a PROFIT is very very good indeed.

Despite knowing the play backwards, but not neccessarily the script, Jim was not averse to coming offstage during the show to check his upcoming lines. This happened at the HAC shows. He had one or two long monologues with Joe, and you'd hear him say something like, "Now just you sit there and think about that for a while". Well, she was silent and immobile in a wheelchair, so what was the young actress going to do? He'd appear at my elbow and peer over my shoulder. "Hi Andy". "Hi Jim, how's it going?". "Not bad, good audience - ah yes, that's it - cheers". "See ya", then on he'd go and continue.

Later, there was a bit of very carefully rehearsed 'panic' when the character of Joe was having a fit. Jim and Celia had to dash on and off through different doors, but each would just manage to miss the other. At HAC, this was quite easy due to the layout of backstage, but wouldn't you know it, one of them took a wrong turn. Disaster was swiftly avoided, when they both did an immediate about turn and pretended they hadn't seen each other. But it was happening so fast, I think they just about got away with it!

Jim liked music in his plays. At the end, the lights slowly faded down to a spot on Joe in her chair, and a bit of weepy music played. In the '74 production, it was "She" by Charles Aznavour. Yuk. In this production it was changed to "When I Need You" by Leo Sayer. This was even worse. By the time we finished this run, it was driving us all up the wall. Jim still signs his Xmas cards, "Slow fade, cue When I Need You" .

It was around this time that Billy Connolly was a fairly regular sight around HAC. He'd written "An Me Wi a Bad Leg, Tae" with Borderline, and it was in rehearsals during the day. For more on 'Bad Leg', see 1984. 

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Nov: Condemmed for Ecstasy by Joan Ure, dir. Ingrid Smith for Sirkus Theatre

The programme clearly states that this was performed at the Fringe (Aug-Sept), but the date I have for it is November. Was it restaged for HAC?

This was another World Premiere (confirmed in the International Journal of Scottish Theatre) but that fact seems to have been ignored again. Strange. Despite what the influential Plays and Players magazine had said about Joan (see above), her plays never received wide recognition. However, she encouraged us to perform them, and would sometimes come to HAC to check on progress or to give advice.

This play was about the Buchanites, a strange religious sect which in the 1770's was based in Irvine. Its leader, Elspeth Buchan, had a house in Glasgow Vennel (opposite the Italian restaurant), and she claimed she could send a person to Heaven by the simple act of breathing on them, and without the inconvenience of them actually dying. But the sect's odd behaviour and hippy-style belief in free love proved too much for the Toon Cooncil, and they were literally thrown out of town, to the accompaniment of a brass band and the jeers of a large crowd. Burns was aware of them when he lived and worked in the town, but he ignored them, as he had enough problems of his own at the time. 

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Dec: The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco, dir. Tony Stott and Lysistrata by Aristophanes, dir. David Croft-Smith. 

 

Some of Lysistrata cast.     L-R Denise Caldwell (later Stott), Mary Lindsay, Michele Lindsay, Betty Hutton, Gaye Dillon. 

Don't remember anything about The Lesson (sorry Tony), but a lot of people remembered Lysistrata.

The plot of this Ancient Greek comedy (now, there's three words you don't see together very often) concerned Greek men refusing to give up war, and their Greek wives staging a sex strike in protest. There was quite a lot of double entendre, sexual references and female skin on show, thanks to Classical Greek dress. (The dressing room must have been an interesting place to be!)  As they were missing the attentions of their wives and being forced to negotiate, am I right in thinking that when they appeared to them in a state of, shall we say, some frustration, various vegetables had been inserted beneath the men's costumes to er. . . emphasise the point? (In fact, some of them were dangling, weren't they?) It could be a dream I've had, but I don't think so!

1978

Mar: Olde Time Music Hall with HAC Orchestra, compiled/dir by the cast

I asssume that there had been no nominations for plays, and that we had decided to put together this music and sketch show. Possibly as a thankyou to our fellow HAC-users the Orchestra for vacating the theatre so many times due to our rehearsals, we invited them to take part in the show. It loosely followed the pattern one would expect, some music hall songs, some Wartime, etc., with the added value of the orchestra's own spot. They had, at their peak, about 20 members, but for most of their existence, they had just a handful of players. However, they were always dead keen, and always played just for their own pleasure. Jim Tannock was the MC for the show, introducing each act with added witty comments. It was presented in a light-hearted fashion, nothing was taken too seriously, Jim was in his element, and it was turning out to be quite a funny show.

What nearly finished Jim off though, was the Orchestra's solo spot. They started well enough, but the audience was soon transfixed at the sight of the lady cellist, legs akimbo, whose serious expression belied the fact that her instrument kept sliding away from her. But the clarinet was equally fascinating, as it was sounding a bit squeaky and strangled. Both these occurrences became increasingly amusing to Jim, but he was doing his best to keep a straight-ish face, hiding behind the upright piano at the back. The audience had clocked all this too, but still, the player continued like a true pro. In between passages though, he would quickly examine the instrument with a frown, trying to detect the problem. Finally, he turned the it upside down and looked down the bell-end, and with a flourish and a wide grin, pulled out the long cleaning brush which had been left inside! At this revelation, Jim collapsed behind the piano in hysterics but in full view of a large section of the audience, which made it even funnier. The orchestra finished the piece to huge applause, as many watching were convinced it had been rehearsed like that.

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Apr: Forget-Me-Not-Lane by Peter Nichols, dir. Jim Tannock

Jim recovered from the Music Hall show and returned to his favourite author. This play was about a man looking back to his childhood during the War, and he and his wife were played by two different actors - one as an adult and one as a child. I was ostensibly SM, but one of the things I organised was recordings of Wartime music which had to be played live from a cassette player on stage. I got right into the music whilst researching it, and still have those tapes somewhere. Notice this was still in the days when you could borrow new furniture from a shop. 

Not sure what the term 'Continuity' means - maybe it meant keeping Jim right!

This year, we adopted the name Harbour Theatre. We thought it better than just 'the drama group'.

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Aug: Something In It For Cordelia  by Joan Ure, dir. Sheila Campbell for Sirkus Theatre for the Fringe.

There were so many Joan Ure Fringe plays, it's getting difficult to keep track of them all, and there's more to come! Joan had died earlier this year.

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Dec: This'll Sleigh You, written/compiled by the cast, Exec dirs. Andy Baird, Tony Stott

This was the first 'Christmas' show we did, a collection of self-written sketches, dramatised jokes, music and dance items, and stuff we frankly pinched. One of the 'pinched' ideas was a recreation of a mime skit I'd seen at the Moscow State Circus (in Moscow actually, in 1975!). It was a dead simple idea - two burglars breaking into the same house, and just with sound effects - creaky floors, stepping on the cat, clicking locks, etc. Worked well, though I say so myself . . . .

This marked the first appearance of the name Harry Roat. I think what happened was that Jim Tannock had started to rehearse Wait Until Dark, the play the character is mentioned in as coming from St Albans, but never actually appears, and then cancelled for some reason. But the name stuck in our minds and we kind of adopted him. For a joke we used his name in most future productions. The joke reached its peak some years later when HAC's membership convener on the main committee demanded to know who this Harry Roat person was, as he couldn't find any record of him having paid his subscriptions! I still use it myself occasionally when answering stupid questions from market researchers.

1979

March and May: Olde Time Music Hall Touring Show, comp/dir by the cast

I can only think that the attraction of this show was the chance to 'tour' and do 'good works ' in the community, playing to old folks' groups and such like. Can't remember details now, but it probably was a re-working of the previous year's show. Sheila played piano, and I remember singing 'I'm 'Enery the Eighth I Am'. Oh dear, how embarrassing. Thank God there's no photos!

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Apr: The Anniversary by Bill McIlwraith, dir. Andy Baird.

This was my first full play as director. I'd seen the film on TV, with Bette Davis in the role of Mum, and I knew we had the right mix of abilities and ages within our ranks, so it went well.

I asked Rod to develop an intermittent stutter as part of his character, and he still blames me for not being able to get rid of it!

The photo was taken for a caption competition in the Irvine times, the winner receiving free tickets. L-R Denise Stott, Rod MacCowan, Mary Lindsay. That phone is still in a box in the garage!

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June: Oh! What a Lovely War devised by Joan Littlewood and Theatre Workshop, dir. Tony Stott

There was a large cast for this World War 1 show, many doubling or trebling parts due to the huge number of characters. It was presented as an end-of-pier musical show, complete with songs of the period, projected slides and loads of sound effects - battle noises, rifles, cannon, howitzers, explosions, missiles, you name it. I was on sound duties, and as many of the cues were played over dialogue, I had to play them in from a position in the audience.

I remember meeting with Tony at his house at the beginning of rehearsals to get a definitive list of effects. I thought his house was very nice, in fact I liked it so much, I bought it later that year, and I'm still here!

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Aug: The Bar Show, comp/dir by the cast

Bar Shows were staged to fill gaps in the schedule, or as quick cash fund-raisers. There was a handful of Bar Shows over the years, and I 'm ninety nine percent sure this is not the poster for this show - Strings and Own Things had dropped the 'Own' some years previously, and had probably stopped playing by this time anyway! So I reckon it's from an uncredited bar show around 1974 or 75.

I have a vague memory of The Maukit Yow sketch with Craig Lockhart and Shelagh Tutchener with a exaggerated Scots accent. "Mither, there's blude on the moon!". Maybe you had to be there . . . .

Anyway, it gives me the chance to show the poster.

 

 

 

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Aug: Something In It For Ophelia by Joan Ure. Director unknown, possibly staged for the Fringe.

This is the companion play to Something In It For Cordelia.

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Sept: A Day in The Death of Joe Egg by Peter Nichols, dir. Jim Tannock

Yes, AGAIN!. I wasn't involved at all this time, can't remember why now. I think this is the production which was known as The Arran Tour production. Apparently it went very well there too!

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Oct: Absent Friends by Alan Aykbourn, dir. Celia Hacking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dec: Festive Treason, written/comp/dir by Andy Baird, Rod MacCowan and the cast

 

 This was a direct follow-up to the previous year's This'll Sleigh You, so I wanted to call it This'll Sleigh You Too, but I was overruled! Rod and I wrote most of the sketches, and dramatised old jokes. We were on top form, and this Xmas show was a lot better than the previous one.

Highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view) included our version of Star Trek, where Capt Kirk kept mispronouncing Spock's name (Speck, Spack, Spook, Spick, etc) One of the best gags was, "Where's that light coming from?". "I think it's from Uranus, Captain". "Oh, I thought it was from Ma-aars!". Quality.

We also had a version of Crown Court, an ITV afternoon drama series of the 70's. Ours was called Clown Court. Example - "The alleged offence took place in the Sha Tup Chinese restaurant". "The what restaurant?". "Sha Tup, m'lord". "Don't tell me to shut up!". "I didn't. I said the name of the restaurant - Sha Tup". "You did it again!", etc etc. Class.

It  was made more interesting by having a couple of visiting foreign language students in the cast, so we had a French lad trying to speak a comedy script in a mock Chinese accent, without fully understanding all the cultural references! Hilarious!

There's also a mention of The Ghoulidhs - more of whom on the next page.

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Shows in Detail 1980-89

Shows in Detail 1990-99

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